CHARLOTTE – Two employees of a Charlotte television station were killed in a helicopter crash Tuesday afternoon in south Charlotte.
The crash happened near Interstate 77 at Nationsford Road. MEDIC confirmed that two people died at the scene.
At around 3pm on Tuesday, WBTV issued a statement confirming that the helicopter was at the scene of the crash.
“The WBTV family is grieving a terrible loss. Our news helicopter, Sky3, crashed Tuesday midnight with two of our colleagues on board,” WBTV said in a statement. “Meteorologist Jason Myers and pilot Chip Tayag lost their lives. We are working to comfort their families at this difficult time. We appreciate your support for our staff and your continued prayers for their families.
The FAA released a statement on Tuesday about the crash, saying: “A Robinson R44 helicopter crashed near I-77 South and Nations Ford Road in Charlotte, NC at approximately 12:20 p.m. local time today. There were two people in the boat. The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate. The NTSB remains in charge of the investigation and will provide additional updates. No agency identifies people involved in plane crashes.
CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings said the pilot was a hero in his eyes.
“It appears that the pilot who was flying the plane made some modifications to avoid disrupting traffic,” Jennings said.
Some lanes of I-77 were reopened and investigators remained at the scene into the night.
‘That helicopter crashes’: Witnesses describe moments as investigators dig for evidence
Carolyn Roos was driving down Interstate 77 when she saw the crash. She told Channel 9 the helicopter went down right next to her.
“It was flying side to side … I immediately knew the helicopter was going to crash,” Roos told Channel 9.
“It started nosediving and it turned and started going north, and it crashed on the side of the highway right next to my car,” Russ added.
Witness Bridget-Anne Hampden said there was no smoke or fire and the wreckage was “eerily quiet”.
She said the pilot appeared to be diverting off the busy interstate.
“I really feel like he ran off the freeway on purpose when he landed. He was no more than five feet from the lane where I was,” Hampden said.
Hampden said the pilot was a hero.
“Quite frankly, he probably saved my life,” Hampden said. “Because I’m not sure what’s going to happen, you know? He became very close to me.
Roos said her heart goes out to the families of Tyagh and Myers and their WBTV family.
“If you have people you love, tell them you love them as much as you can,” Russ said.
The Charlotte Flight Standards District Office began canvassing the crash site Tuesday with the FAA, Channel 9 has learned. The local FAA is in charge of looking into other safety standards of this flight, including flight history, pilot training and any audio recordings. The NTSB, on the other hand, would be a “recommending authority,” meaning they would come in and determine the probable cause of the crash.
The NTSB said a preliminary report could be issued within four to six weeks, but the final report could take 12-24 months.
An NTSB investigator was expected to arrive Tuesday night and work through Wednesday morning, an agency spokesman said.
Debris will be recovered and taken off-site for further analysis.
The helicopter is a Robinson R-44. Channel 9 asked Brian Burns, president of the Air Charter Safety Foundation, about the plane itself.
“It’s a very airworthy, very robust training aircraft, usually for flight schools where people are trying to get their helicopter license,” Burns said.
The NTSB’s final report often contains a probable cause and contributing factors to the crash.
At the time of the accident, the sky was clear and the situation was relatively calm.
ABC News aviation expert Jim Nance said that’s okay.
“Helicopters are very affected by wind, so clear skies overhead, to me, don’t tell the whole story,” Nance said.
He said the helicopters were “incredibly safe”.
“But when something goes wrong, because it’s a helicopter, our focus is on what happened,” Nance said.
This is a developing story. Check back with wsoctv.com For updates.
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